MCCRC/PAM 2016 primary questionnaire process

moccrcThis page is intended to provide more transparency about the process MCCRC and PAM followed to generate the questionnaire, circulate it to candidates, and record results.

Goals
Our goals were to provide as much useful information as possible to Montgomery County voters, while being fair and neutral towards all candidates for federal office.  Both goals meant we would also contact candidates not listed on the April 26 primary ballot, e.g., Green and unaffiliated candidates.

Questionnaire

pamlogoThe idea of MCCRC and Peace Action Montgomery (PAM) collaborating on a questionnaire was agreed to on February 29.  We agreed that MCCRC would host the results, and that PAM and MCCRC would develop 5 questions each, with up to 2 being 2-part questions.  PAM graciously agreed, however, to a 6th MCCRC question.  It was also agreed that:

  • all questions should be framed to yield “Yes” or “No” answers,
  • that “Yes” would constitute the preferred alternative (for ease of tabulation),
  • all statements of fact in our questions would be substantiated with footnotes to supporting documents

In addition, a rough timeline was mapped out, with a view to providing results well before early primary voting, scheduled to begin on April 14.  Each group then developed its questions independently.

Circulation of questionnaire

The questionnaire was circulated on March 13, 1:40pm by a mass emailing (as a Word .docx file) and on March 14 by mail, accompanied in both cases by a cover letter explaining our intended process:

  1. receipt of questionnaires by March 31, followed by
  2. release during the week of April 4.

The questionnaire was circulated to 64 candidates for federal office on the Maryland primary ballot who were…

  • seeking votes from Montgomery County voters — i.e., candidates for Senate, and the 3d, 6th, and 8th Maryland Congressional District Representative — and,
  • listed as non-withdrawn candidates by the Maryland Board of Elections

In the following week, a round of reminder/inquiry emails was sent by volunteers to each individual campaign for which we had email addresses (drawn from public MD BOE records).

Recording responses
A password-protected page was created for each candidate as his or her completed questionnaire was received. The visibility of the page was then toggled from “passworded” to “public” on its release date.

This meant that the fact that a candidate had responded was, in principle, visible to competitors who made a study of the MCCRC web site (by “mousing over” the “Elections” menu item and subpages), while the contents of his or her responses were not.  This enabled volunteers to check the pages for accuracy before their release — and, we thought, might also spur competitors to fill out their own questionnaires.  (In the end, “publishing behind a password” didn’t seem to have much impact on results.)

Early release of some responses

We were contacted by Green Party Senate candidate Margaret Flowers requesting that we change our proposed process to accommodate the Green Party nomination process. Nominees for that general election slot are not listed on the Maryland primary ballot; instead, votes are collected by mail during the month of April and in person at a convention in Baltimore in late April.

We of MCCRC and PAM conferred about her request and agreed; in order to be fair to all candidates, we notified all candidates by email on March 16 that this option was open to all who chose to use it.  This led to one complaint — not from a Green Party opponent, but from an unaffiliated one who will only compete for votes with Ms. Flowers in November — that Flowers had been unfairly advantaged.

Request for extension

On March 31, the Raskin campaign in the 8th Congressional District contacted us to request an extension.  Again, we of MCCRC and PAM conferred. At the time, we had only 2 responses from the 8th CD, so in the interests of voter education we agreed to give a 48 hour extension to midnight, April 2, to the Raskin campaign and all other 8th CD nonrespondents (Democrat, Republican, or otherwise).  We notified this cohort of the extension early in the morning of April 1.  We also followed up with each of these campaigns by phone during the day of April 1.  As it turned out, the Raskin campaign was the only one to use the extension.  At this time, we have 23 candidate responses.

Proofing results

We have been at pains to correctly enter and tabulate candidate responses; volunteers have followed a checklist to look for transcription or tabulation mistakes, and we have found and corrected a very few before publication. Each questionnaire response page has a link to the original candidate response document in its footer.  In some cases, the “original document” is a copy of an email from the candidate to MCCRC or PAM, which isn’t quite as satisfactory but will have to do.  In one case, we felt justified in simply excerpting the initial paragraphs of a candidate’s exceptionally lengthy remarks, and providing a link to the original document for the rest.  We stand ready to correct any errors that candidates convince us need to be corrected.

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* Return to 2016 Maryland primary election questionnaires

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